The Twins blew yet another lead late on Tuesday night at Target Field, but it was Miguel Sano to the rescue, as the 22-year-old third baseman lined a wicked smash into left-center to drive home Brian Dozier with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 6-5 win over the Cleveland Indians on a chilly night at Target Field.
Ricky Nolasco gave the Twins 7.1 solid innings, making just a couple mistakes along the way — home runs to Jason Kipnis and Juan Uribe — while striking out nine batters and walking none. He allowed just five hits to go with four earned runs.
Kipnis opened the scoring with a home run to the flower pots in left field, as the left-handed hitter hooked Nolasco’s first curveball of the day 355 feet to give the Tribe a 1-0 lead. “Kipnis did a good job of hitting that pitch out,” Nolasco said after the game, his fourth straight to start the season in which he pitched at least into the seventh inning. The teams traded the lead all night, as Dozier singled home Danny Santana in the bottom half of the first before Kurt Suzuki dropped a single into center to score Byung Ho Park in the second for a 2-1 lead.
The lead was short lived as Uribe ambushed a Nolasco fastball for a home run to lead off the third inning, tying the game at two apiece. After the game, Nolasco said if he could take back one pitch all night, that was it. “Other than the one pitch to Uribe…I wouldn’t take anything back,” he noted. In the bottom of the fourth, Suzuki again dropped a single into center to score Park — who had doubled for the second time in the game — to put the Twins ahead 3-2 yet again. Mauer followed with a ground-rule double into the stands in foul territory in left to plate Dozier for a 4-2 lead in the fifth, but only after Dozier had a bizarre plate appearance.
With Santana on first after a nifty bunt single, Dozier first had a ball hit the knob of his bat for a foul with Santana moving on the pitch. Later in the at-bat, Dozier placed a ball just out of the reach of diving right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall. Dozier cruised into second — he was awarded just a single — but an iffy read by Santana got him thrown out at third on the play, one that might have been reversed if the Twins hadn’t burnt their review on a fielder’s choice at second base in the first inning. There’s no way to know how Indians starter Cody Anderson would have pitched Mauer with runners on second and third, but that run would prove pivotal in the later innings.
Cleveland manufactured a couple runs in the sixth to tie the game, but the Twins yet again had an answer as No. 9 hitter Eddie Rosario poked a 379-foot home run to right to put the Twins back up 5-4. Nolasco went back out for the eighth with 99 pitches, but after a one-out Naquin double over Santana’s head in center, manager Paul Molitor turned to former set-up man Casey Fien, who blew away Carlos Santana looking on three pitches and Jason Kipnis swinging, with velocity sitting 94-95 and reaching as high as 96 mph.
Things remained quiet until there were two outs in the top of the ninth, when Indians first baseman Mike Napoli absolutely crushed a high Kevin Jepsen fastball into the upper deck to tie the game at five. That was Jepsen’s third blown save of the season, which set up heroics in the ninth.
Santana singled deep in the hole to Francisco Lindor, but was caught stealing at second after review showed that Yan Gomes’ throw just beat him to the bag. Dozier followed with a double to right off Indians closer Cody Allen. Indians manager Terry Francona opted to walk Joe Mauer to face the slumping Sano, who promptly crushed a pitch into center for the team’s second walk-off win in as many nights. “You know, I’m a rookie,” Sano said of the set up to his big final at bat. “I don’t have any experience like that. You know Mauer, he’s a good hitter. Better than everyone here. He’s a professional hitter. He can hit .300 every year. It’s easy for Mauer to hit a double, a single. It’s like a respect thing; everybody shows it to him.”
Notes and quotes
“First I’m healthy, so that helps. The slider’s been good. Good command of the fastball. But it all starts with health.” – Nolasco on his third-year resurgence with the Twins.
“Tonight Arcia told me to be ready for fastballs, and try to finish the game. Don’t swing at breaking balls, he told me. Yesterday I told Arcia to be ready for a fastball, hit a homer and finish the game. I was so really happy in the moment. It’s great for us to keep playing like that as a team. We’re all a team, and I’m so very happy.” – Sano on taking the spotlight from Oswaldo Arcia the night after he won a game with a walk-off home run.
“I remember yesterday I told Arcia I’ve never walked off a game. And tonight, Arcia told me “You can be a leader, a big guy in the game.” (Allen) didn’t pitch to Mauer, he tried to pitch to me. I was ready for the fastball. He threw me two breaking balls in a row. I tried only to hit the ball.” – Sano on his game-winning hit being set up by the intentional walk to Mauer.
* The Twins are 5-1 over their last six games at Target Field, and 6-4 at home overall this season.
* The Twins are 7-5 in their last 12 games after starting the season 0-9.
* Eduardo Escobar hit a double in the bottom of the eighth inning. He had previously last had an extra-base hit in the season-opening series against Baltimore — a stretch of 68 plate appearances.
* Rosario’s home run in the sixth inning was the 16th of his career. He now has more home runs than triples (15) in his career.